My Sunday afternoon was to be spent with internet date Marielle from Buenos Aires, we had arranged to meet at Hampstead Tube Station and then go for a pub lunch, as I waited outside the station I observed another half-dozen people all likewise waiting for friends, I wondered about their stories and in turn how mine would pan out this afternoon. Would my cliche view of an Argentinian hold true? I had seen her photos on the dating site, so I knew I was going to get a long dark haired, dark eyed latin woman, but peoples self-descriptions are often difficult to decipher, what was I in for?
I need not have worried, Mariella came out of the Tube like a whirlwind, made a bee-line straight for me, a grin as wide as a Chesire Cat and planted a smacker on each of my cheeks. She had a sparkle in her eyes, an infectious nature and talked passionately from the off. We found a pub near the heath and settled down to Sunday lunch, Marielle & I gassed through lunch, occassional spaces were left for food, long rambling conversations and snippets of our respective lives swapped and described. Post lunch we went on a little walk and ended our afternoon in a pattiserie with chocolate cake and coffee, four hours of conversation later I had indeed met a woman filled with a Latin passion, but in a way I could not have guessed.
Marielle had until her mid-thirties been a successful Corporate Lawyer in Buenos Aries, then something just snapped in her and she decided she wanted a different life, she felt stiffled in Argentina and yearned to see more of the World. She jacked in her job, used the UK as a base and began travelling for six months of the year at a time to keep her Visa terms legit, when her visa was due to expire she would leave the UK and travel again. Evenutally she obtained a Spanish Passport, hers as right though Spanish ancestry, on a more permanant basis in the UK, Marielle was able to call London home, work and earn here and use it as a base for her travels.
Marielle said the defining time for her in her life was an extended period spent in India, she travelled the length and breadth of the country, then lived in Delhi for a while, managing to fund herself by getting a job at the Argentine Embassy as a translator. Marielle said she found herself there, she was not drawn as many through Yoga, she did not seek out a Guru-Teacher as a way to self discovery, more for her meaning was found rather simply through observation, experience and by simply being, by absorbing and living a life open. She considered India her spiritual home, she did not call herself religious indeed she seemed to have a distrust of organised religion, but she was spirtual, ( her one exception was the current Pope, she was very enthusiastic about him, “He is Argentinian and a very good man he is honest, a man of the people you will see, he will make a difference”) .
After India Marielle returned to London, she was offered a job with a Anglo-Spanish family, as a sort of Major Domo.
The family was moving to Khatrtoum, in the Sudan, Marielle ended up going with them, living a life of super luxury in a country of the greatest poverty, she lived in a mini-palace with the River Nile at the bottom of her landscaped and swimming pool filled gardens, her role in Khartoum was as House-Co-Ordinator, Child Manager and Nanny. Marielle never had children of her own and the two young children on some level became her surrogate kids, when the time came for her to leave Marielle said it was very difficult, the younger of the two children, a girl now nine years old, each afternoon after school the little girl would come running into the compound straight to Marielle wherever she was, find her and throw her arms around her for a big hug. Marielle said that she found living in such oppulence surrounded by the exact opposite challenging, that in time she found it more and more difficult to reconcile the life she lived with the lives of the people in the City and Country that surrounded her little bubble. The difficutly was compounded by the feelings she had for the children with whom she had bonded very strongly.
When the little girl heard the news of Marielles departure she said to her who will kiss me every day when I come home from school? There was no reply as the little girls mother looked on………………………………
The reason Marielle chose to leave Khartoum was because she had discovered a lump in her right breast, concerned about the quality of medical treatment in the UK she flew back to Buenos Aries. There she met consultants and oncologists, surgeons and plastic surgeons. After diagnosis and the news that she did indeed have Breast Cancer Marielle spent time on her own thinking, she needed the space with herself.
She said she asked herself a question , Are you ready to Die? The answer she found was, if that’s what needs to happen then yes, she said she found contentment with her life, if she needed to she was ready to die. Once she had come to this conclusion all flowed from the acceptance, there was no fear, what would be would be. Marielle said she had to ban her mother from the hospital as she cried too much and she needed to be positive for herself, she discarded anything and anyone that prevented her dealing with the Cancer. As she preapred for the operating table she was given a release form to sign, stating the intetion of the surgery was to remove one tumour, but there was a paragraph which indemnified the surgeon to be able, if on investigation he found further evidence of abnormal tissue to remove the breast entirely. Marielle refused to sign, kicked up a fuss and insisted on seeing the Surgeon. He eventually came to see her pre-op, and explained that if there was evidence he needed to be able to deal with it immediately, the best course was removal of the breast, she could always have reconstructive surgery. Marielle said at this point she lost her temper with him, I told him Mr. Surgeon, how would you feel if I operated on you, and when you wake up I have cut off your cock! You wouldn’t like it would you, eh? Well I want my breasts, you will not cut off my breast you understand? She wagged her finger at me fiercely re-enacting the scenario. Ha, he was pretty surprised when I said that, then he listened to me……………………. Yes I think he would do Marielle.
The Tumour was removed, but there was indeed more abnormal tissue and Marielle had to go through Chemo, however four years Cancer-Free is where things now stand. Marielle said it was tough, but it taught her much, she had tried back in the UK to volunteer to help Breast Cancer sufferers , but was told that her outlook might come over as too positive to sufferers, that sometimes people needed to hear the truth and not a postive message of hope that might ultimately be un-founded. Marielle had struggled to accept that she was not, even as a Breast Cancer survivivor with a postivie attitude the right person to help those diagnosed with the same disease, but it still led her to want to be a counsellor and mentor, Marielle’s life experience has led her towards life coaching and counselling, she feels she has something positive to share and begins a full time course early in 2014. I think she will make a rather good Life-Coach.
Marielle talked repeatedly about living in the present, that she did not worry about the future, she did not dwell on the past, that for her life meant living now, she said she loved life and she loved her life.
I asked her if she had read any Eckhart Tolle, Who? she replied, I tried as best as I could to give my rather fumbling explanation of The Power of Now, Marielle said she never read books like that, but the similarity to me was obvious, Marielle seemd to have found the same reasoning through her own experience of life, all Roads lead to Rome? Well perhaps there are many roads to one destination, you can follow the tracks and sign-posts put up by others, or find your own route, it is much the same in the end.
We did disagree though I have to say on one point, whilst Marielle was without doubt quite a woman, all was not perfect, when describing Gurus we talked about Osho, and she likened him to Maradonna, Maradonna was the greatest player in the World, but he was a flawed man she said, the Drugs, the Prostitutes, people can be brilliant in some ways and not in others, it is just like that, it doesn’t lessen their gift. I made the mistake of adding “The Hand of God” , he was also a cheat I said, she denied it emphatically, “No, that was the hand of God, it was meant to happen”…………………… well on this point we agreed to differ.
I said goodbye to Marielle outside the tube station, I don’t see our paths crossing again to be honest, but I admired her spirit and her love of life, I think her journey will continue to be a positive one, both for herself and the others who have the good fortune to meet her.
I came away thinking about Marielle, just one soul amongst a myriad, I continue to be amazed by the richness of life, by the journies undertaken, the places travelled, physical and psychological, boundless stories of lives less ordinary lived with passion. What an amazing gift we have, may we all find the courage to live our lives well and with our own passion.